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Imagine: a single group of people holds all the power in society and gets to decide over life and death. The other group is seen as completely inferior and has been dehumanized, branded and locked up in ghettos. This sounds as if it’s straight out of a history book, right? Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s the starting point of US writer Jesse Ball’s latest novel: The Diver’s Game, a dystopian thought exercise that is eerily realistic.
A story about pats and quads
The quest for equality and justice almost destroyed humanity. Today the world is divided in two groups: the pats, the elite group, on the one hand, and the quads, on the other, refugees and their descendants, with branded jaws and mutilated hands. The pats can kill the quads at will — and they do. They simply put on their gas masks and let the gas run its destructive course.
The Diver’s Game consists of four parables. Together they make up the image of an extremely dark society in which fear, sadism and inequality reign, and in which empathy, generosity and justice are seen as outmoded concepts. Perhaps the scariest thing of all is this: although a brilliant work of the imagination, the world in The Diver’s Game looks a hell of a lot like ours.
Sober content, sober form
Ball doesn’t beat about the bush. As in his earlier work, The Diver’s Game is a merciless reflection on the beastly side of humanity, usually worked into one or other government order or system. The harsh content is reflected in Ball’s style.
His language is almost stand-offishly neutral and economical, and for this reason precisely timeless and solemn. With this overwhelming novel, Jesse Ball confirms his reputation as one of the most fascinating talents in contemporary literature.
About the author:
The Diver’s Game is the eighth novel of US author Jesse Ball (b. 1978), who also has several poetry collections, novellas and non-fiction works under his belt. In 2017 he featured on Granta’s list of ‘best young American novelists’, a mark of quality for young talent for many decades. Ball won the Paris Review’s prestigious Plimpton Prize for best short story. He teaches creative writing at the renowned School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His previous novel, Census, was translated into 13 languages.